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Reducing Implicit Bias in the Workplace

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

What Is Implicit Bias?

Have you ever witnessed or heard of a manager standing for equality and promoting diversity in the workplace, yet turns around and gives a promotion to a man over a more qualified woman? This is a situation that happens more frequently than one would expect and is often the result of an implicit bias held by the manager. Implicit (or unconscious) biases are unconscious beliefs or attitudes one may hold that could result in a person unknowingly stereotyping or treating someone unfairly. I know what you're thinking, "I dont have any biases, so this isn't about me", but in reality almost all of us hold implicit biases, but it is the decision of recognizing or allowing them to influence our behaviors that makes the difference.

Examples of Implicit Biases

The following types of implicit biases are some of the more common ones that people hold:

  1. Affinity Bias: Birds of a feather flock together! This bias refers to how we’re more likely to want to be around those who are more similar to ourselves and can be very detrimental to organizations when hiring managers only go for candidates who are the same as them.

  2. Ageism: Age discrimination happens when someone unconsciously believes that someone may be too young or too old for the job and can result in organizations not hiring someone based on their age, aswell as encouraging older workers to retire early.

  3. Attribution Bias: Attribution biases emerge when someone tries to understand another person’s behavior. This judgment can result in that person always seeing someone in a negative light, no matter what positives actions they perform.

  4. Beauty Bias: Can being attractive get someone more ahead in the workplace? Sometimes it can! Some people will treat those they find attractive more favorably than those they find unattractive

  5. Gender Bias: Gender biases are, unfortunately, still very common in today’s workplace and refers to believing that one gender is better equipped to get the job done correctly than another gender.

How to Reduce Implicit Biases

  1. Focus on Data: One of the biggest resources an organization can utilize to identify biases in relation to salary and hiring practices is data. Crunching the numbers can help an organization find out whether or not there is a gender pay gap, highlight the organization’s internal demographics, and can show who exactly they’re hiring, which can help determine whether or not discriminatory hiring practices are being employed.

  2. Diverse Recruiters and Interviewers: Making sure there’s a diverse group of people recruiting and interviewing candidates can reduce the likelihood that the same types of people will get hired, which will result in even more diversity within the organization.

  3. Prioritize Diverse Talent: When recruiting candidates, actively look for those who are diverse and make sure that candidates know the organization is an inclusive and welcoming place to work.

  4. Train Current Employees: When learning and development is made a priority, employees are given the opportunity to continuously grow. Organizations should focus on training employeeson implicit biases and how to overcome them.

  5. Foster a Culture of Acceptance and Inclusivity: Create employee resource groups, provide employees with surveys to measure their well-being, make sure all employees feel psychologically safe.

In conclusion, implicit biases can be extremely detrimental in the workforce and need to be recognized as soon as possible. It’s important to foster a psychologically safe work environment for employees that is diverse, welcoming, and inclusive. Not only will this benefit employees, but it will also make the organization more profitable overall.


Aleena Shaji, MBA, M.S. is a guest contributor to our blog. Learn more about and connect with her here.


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